At an event organized on the sidelines of the ongoing 36th Open Ended Working Group of the parties to the Montreal Protocol, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released its proposal to reduce HFCs. Key negotiators, diplomats, industry representatives and civil society members attended the meeting. Head of the Indian delegation and negotiators from the European Commission and Micronesia spoke as panelists at the event.
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are super greenhouse gases introduced in response to the phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) under the Montreal Protocol. They are primarily used as coolants in refrigerators and air-conditioners. Their ability to trap heat is several thousand times more powerful than CO2. Previously, it was hotly debated whether or not the HFCs would be brought within the ambit of the Montreal Protocol which deals with the depletion of the ozone layer. However, gradually Montreal Protocol has emerged as a suitable platform to discuss a phase-down of HFCs. To mitigate HFCs, some parties to the Montreal Protocol have put forth proposals to amend the Montreal Protocol in order to bring HFCs under the protocol.
Currently there are four different proposals to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase-down HFCs.
● A joint proposal by US, Canada and Mexico (the North American proposal)
● A joint proposal by Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia (Federated States of), Palau, Philippines, Samoa and Solomon Islands (the Island States Proposal)
● A proposal submitted by India (the Indian proposal), and
● The European Union proposal (the European proposal)
CSE analysed all the proposals on equity and ambition. The CSE study has found that the North American proposal is most inequitable as it has put strict reduction scheduled for developing countries compared to the developed countries. In fact, other than the India proposal, the other three proposals allow very high per capita consumption of HFCs in developed countries compared to the developing countries.
The Indian proposal, on the other hand, is most equitable, but is unambitious. Under the Indian proposal only about 55% of HFCs consumption will be reduced from business-as-usual.
Considering the pros and cons of the proposals CSE released its framework of reducing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.
CSE’s framework focuses on the ways in which there can be fair sharing of burden of reducing HFCs. It captures the idea of common but differentiated responsibility and equity while bearing in mind the threat that HFCs pose to the climate due to their high global warming potential (GWP).
Speaking at the event, CSE’s deputy director general Chandra Bhushan said that: “Our proposal allows cutting of HFC consumption by 82 per cent from a business-as-usual scenario, allows equitable consumption and reduction of HFCs in developed and developing countries and a clear logic for transfer of finance and technology from developed and developing countries. Our proposal also addresses the issue of improving energy efficiency of refrigerators and air conditioners, which is very important for countries like India”.
Speaking at the event, Manoj Kumar Singh, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forest said, “Equity is very important for India, and India supports any proposal that advances equity and common but differentiated responsibility between the developed and developing countries.” He also said that his delegation would further study the proposal.
Cornelius Rhein, the delegate from the European Union who was also on the panel, said, “The proposal is an illustration of out of the box thinking and needs to be looked into by the parties.”
CSE framework also proposes a mechanism to incentivize improvements in energy efficiency in refrigerators and air conditioners in developing countries. The CSE study shows that doubling of the rate of improvement of energy efficiency in air-conditioners in India can eliminate 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030, reduce India’s peak power demand, decrease the dependence on fossil fuel imports, decrease the need for costly (and often polluting) power plants and also strengthen India’s energy security.
“We believe that a framework that is fair and ambitious will be acceptable to all parties. Our framework is an attempt in that direction,” added Bhushan. CSE has encouraged parties to study its proposal and use it in the ongoing negotiations at the Montreal Protocol.